A Distant Center

Ha Jin. Copper Canyon, $22 (80p) ISBN 978-1-55659-462-5
Poet and novelist Jin (The Boat Rocker) shares an honest, restrained look at his philosophies about home, writing, and staying true to oneself in these muted, yet arresting poems. He writes how “at night I often hear a voice/ whisper, tickling my ear:/ ‘there’s no meaning in an effortless life—/ you came into this world/ just to strive into another self.’ ” The poems, originally composed in Chinese, are often addressed to a “you,” which can take the form of a “little rascal” wren attempting to build a nest above the author’s door or a schoolchild who is unwilling to practice Chinese calligraphy. But most of the time, Jin’s “you” is aimed as much at the self as it is the reader: “May you have/ fresh excitement every day, but don’t/ linger at any charming site for long. If you are/ blazing a path, do not expect to meet/ a fellow traveler.” This fine collection of handsomely crafted musings displays Jin’s signature simplicity and offers readers a guide to the creative process: “You must hold your quiet center,/ where you do what only you can do./ If others call you a maniac or a fool,/ just let them wag their tongues./ If some praise your perseverance,/ don’t feel too happy about it –/ only solitude is a lasting friend.” (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/19/2018
Release date: 04/01/2018
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 80 pages - 978-1-55659-521-9
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